The Antidote Book Summary - The Antidote Book explained in key points
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The Antidote summary

Oliver Burkeman

Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

4.4 (373 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

"The Antidote" by Oliver Burkeman challenges the conventional wisdom that positive thinking is the key to happiness and success. Instead, Burkeman argues that embracing uncertainty, failure, and even negativity can lead to a more fulfilling life.

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    The Antidote
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    The self-help industry is shallow and fraudulent – and it won’t make you happier.

    The plethora of self-help books promising its readers a better life speaks to our culture’s obsession with achieving happiness. But if you strip away the shiny covers and flashy slogans, it won’t take you long to realize that the messages they contain are completely banal.

    For example, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the bestselling self-help books of all time, essentially instructs readers to decide what matters most to them in life and do it.

    A similar bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, advises readers to be pleasant rather than obnoxious, and to use people’s first names a lot.

    And some of these books aren’t just banal – they’re downright false. Several best-selling books on the importance of setting goals quote the so-called Yale Study of Goals. In this study, students from Yale’s graduating class of 1953 were asked whether they had concrete, written-down goals for their lives. Only 3% of them said they had. Two decades later, when members of the class were located and asked how their lives had turned out, lo and behold, the 3% who had written down their goals had amassed greater financial wealth than the other 97% combined.

    This study would be great evidence that writing down goals could secure future success – if it weren’t a fake. Indeed, it was later revealed that the Yale Study of Goals never took place at all.

    Finally, self-help books often imply that a person’s level of happiness corresponds to their level of wealth. And yet, one of the best-known general findings of the “science of happiness” is that most of the advantages of modern life haven’t lifted our collective mood. Above a certain basic level of income, making more and more money doesn’t make us happier and happier.

    Similarly, international studies have shown that some of the world’s poorest countries are the happiest. In one survey, Nigeria, where 92% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, came in first place.

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    What is The Antidote about?

    The Antidote is the intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness. The author emphasizes that positive thinking isn’t the solution, but part of the problem. He outlines an alternative, “negative” path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty – what we usually spend our lives trying to avoid.

    The Antidote Review

    The Antidote (2012) by Oliver Burkeman is a thought-provoking exploration of our obsession with positivity and the alternative paths to happiness. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • By challenging the relentless pursuit of happiness, it offers a fascinating perspective on embracing uncertainty and finding contentment in acceptance.
    • With engaging anecdotes and insightful interviews, the book exposes the flaws in the "positive thinking" movement, inviting readers to question common wisdom.
    • Through its exploration of ancient philosophies and modern psychology, The Antidote encourages us to embrace the power of negative thinking for a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

    Who should read The Antidote?

    • Anyone who wants to feel happy, even when things go wrong
    • Anyone who’s tired of setting and trying to follow through rigid goals
    • Anyone who wants to learn to appreciate what they have

    About the Author

    Oliver Burkeman is a British journalist who writes the popular weekly column “This Column Will Change your Life” for The Guardian. He won the Foreign Press Association’s Young Journalist of the Year award and was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. The Antidote (2013) is his second book. He currently lives in New York City. 

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    The Antidote FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Antidote?

    The main message of The Antidote is to embrace the power of negative thinking and find happiness through acceptance of life's uncertainties.

    How long does it take to read The Antidote?

    The reading time for The Antidote varies depending on your reading speed, but it generally takes a few hours. However, you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Antidote a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Antidote is worth reading because it challenges conventional wisdom about happiness and offers a fresh perspective on finding contentment in life.

    Who is the author of The Antidote?

    The author of The Antidote is Oliver Burkeman.

    What to read after The Antidote?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Antidote, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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